Tuesday, March 21, 2017

IT'S REUNION TIME!


            I guess all of that talk about the 50th birthday of the Kipling Arena made me pretty nostalgic. It welled up a lot of memories of the past so you will have to endure one more column mostly dedicated to the theme of the Kipling Arena.

            Back in the 1970’s there was an abundance of hockey players and not just in Kipling, either. The Baby Boomers were coming of age and there were a lot of them. They were everywhere.

There were so many players back then that the younger minor hockey teams seldom had to leave town to find competition as they had a four-team house league in most of the age groups right here in town and they played against each other every Saturday morning.

Every now and then there would be a trip to a tournament or an “away game” somewhere and, to me, a road trip back then to Odessa or Indian Head seemed like it lasted forever for crying out loud and now we’re hiking eight and ten-year-old kids to Carnduff in the middle of the week? Times have definitely changed and I am digressing.

            In addition to all of Kipling’s minor hockey teams there were the Kipling Royals senior hockey team, the Pipestone Beavers Junior B Hockey Team who used the Kipling Arena as their home base and there was a “fall-through-the-cracks” Senior “B” team of guys who still loved to play the game but didn’t have the talent for the Royals or didn’t want to commit the time required to play senior hockey, or risk a job-ending injury in a body-contact league. The Senior B’s were a precursor to today’s Rec Hockey Teams playing in the beer n sausage leagues.

            After I finished high school I played more than a few games with the Senior B’s before joining the Royals for a few seasons but I didn’t get a chance to play for the Pipestone Beavers. Like many of my peers I tried out for the team but apparently the quota on string-bean right wingers with a soft backhand had been filled. Three years in a row. Again, with the digressing.

            In 2006 I helped organize a “Royals Reunion” and it was well attended and we had a lot of fun reminiscing, and, like many of these events we vowed to have one every five years or so. So far, we haven’t.

            I had many discussions with a lot of the old Pipestone Beaver alumni, too, many of which are still in the area, and it turns out that they have never had a reunion since the team disbanded after the 1976-77 season.

            Many of my close peer-group friends played with both the Royals and the Beavers and we share many, many hockey stories every time we gather for an occasion. Since the day I moved into Kipling Brian Gallagher had been one of my closest friends and he was an excellent goaltender for both of those teams. Brian passed away last June and as many of his old teammates and friends gathered to say goodbye we lamented the fact that we don’t meet as often as we should or as often as many of us would like. Again, the subject of a bigger reunion came up. This time we aren’t putting it off.

            So we are going to have the First Ever Kipling Royals Pipestone Beavers Hockey Teams Reunion on June 17th. There will be a golf tourney at Kingwood Golf Course, a supper and hours and hours of reminiscing and lying to each other about how good we used to be. A wobbly pop or two may be involved.

            We will be recruiting help and we will be calling as many of the old team members as we can so if anyone would like to volunteer or pass on any names of teammates past follow the contact information at the bottom of this article and let me know.

“What can ever equal the memory of being young together?” –Michael Stein, In the Age Love.

THE RINK-HUB OF A SASKATCHEWAN COMMUNITY


            The Kipling Arena is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. As with every other town, village or rural community on the Canadian prairies that constructed curling and skating rinks the Kipling Arena became one of the main focal points of the community. Residents really needed somewhere to go to while away the long, long Saskatchewan winter hours. You know, we were adapting to the elements, you might say.

            Did you know that Saskatchewan has more indoor rinks than Ontario? We do! Mind you, our weather may factor into that, don’t you think? There was a statistic that I read while I was in the recreation field which stated that Saskatchewan had more indoor rinks, especially artificial ice rinks, than the entire country of Russia. I am not sure if that statistic is still true today, but still.

            The rink has changed significantly in many ways since its opening day. Artificial ice was installed in the 1970’s and dressing rooms have been renovated or constructed continually over the years improving the amenities of the facility. Many rink improvement projects have been completed throughout the years through government grant monies, local municipal support and, of course, the backbone of any community…its users and volunteer base.

            I remember the pre-artificial ice days of the early 1970’s. I was a linesman for most of the Junior B Pipestone Beavers’ home games and we were still using hand scrapers to clean the ice between periods of the hockey games and they only flooded the ice during the second intermission. It was the same for the Kipling Royals home games.

            Volunteers would hand-scrape the accumulated skating surface snow into windrows and then shovel the snow out of two hatches in walls at the south end of the rink. These hatches were also an excellent way to sneak in to the rink to scoot around unsupervised while the place was closed. If one was prone to doing that sort of thing, mind you.

            Back then there was an old barrel and boom contraption that was used to flood the ice. A hose came up out of the basement at the north end of the ice and they filled a barrel that was attached to a bike-wheel cart and it had about a ten foot boom across the back where flannel was draped to smooth the heated water as it flowed out of the boom. It was pulled by hand and it needed about three barrels to do a complete flood, I think. It was interminable!! It took forever!

            Many a time I shivered and froze through two periods of hockey in a rink that was always ten degrees colder inside than it was outside only to sit for thirty-five minutes in a cramped hot referee’s room and have to reacclimatize myself to the frigid conditions all over again. Ditto when I was playing hockey for the Royals. I hated going back out for those third periods in -25C conditions.

            Back in my high school days the last event of the skating rink season was the Kipling High School broomball tournament. There was usually one to two inches of water on top of the remaining ice as we ran around soaked to the gills slipping and sliding in rubber boots, as no one had broom ball shoes. It was freezing cold, soaking wet FUN!

             Yes, when I think of the Kipling Arena I think of fun. I had a lot of fun times in that rink and I don’t think I’m done having fun there. Happy 50th Kipling Arena and here’s to 50 more!

“The Rink. A place where I’ve laughed but also where I’ve cried. Had my biggest successes and my biggest failures. It is where I belong.”- Pinterest Pin.

Monday, March 6, 2017

HAPPY 50TH KIPLING ARENA!

            It was with great interest that I read last week’s Citizen coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the construction of the Kipling Arena. Currently the “rink” may not meet the mid-to-late1960’s level of being the centre of the community’s universe, (53 rink bonspiels!! my goodness), but it is still a very vital structure as well as a cornerstone of our community.
            50 years! It seems like such a short time ago in our history but a lifetime ago in our memories. As they say, “if those walls could talk”, my, my, my what stories they would tell.
            The Kipling Arena was barely three years old when I crossed the threshold for the first time in 1970. I spent an awful lot of hours in that facility in many different capacities throughout the years. Fan, player, coach, referee, linesman, ice maker, PA announcer, bonspieler, cook… I even worked out of the Parks and Recreation Office in the northeast corner of the waiting room for four years from 2002-2006. I know that building intimately.
             There were numerous times when I sat alone in that massive wood structure while it seemed as though the walls were trying to talk to me. I wasn’t sure what they were saying but there was a lot of creaking and cracking and moaning and groaning going on in there. Most people would be a little spooked being alone in that old building with those noises going on all the time but I felt that if there were any spirits floating around the Kipling Arena they’d just be the ghosts of fun-seekers past. You know, benevolent spirits still having fun in a building built for that very purpose…fun…and in that capacity, it has been and continues to be a resounding success.
            I am reluctant to name names while talking historically about bygone days in our community, knowing full well that I will miss someone significant, but I can’t help but mention a few people from my early, early days in the rink. A few of the rink-dwellers from back in the day who made an impression on me for various reasons.
            People like “George Baker the Caretaker”. If you were to tie all of the skate laces together that George Baker tightened up for every little skater over the years they would stretch for miles and miles and miles. Ol’ George could skate like the wind, too. He loved skating.
            Then there was Frank Kashmere with his ever-present grease dripping burger flipper in hand standing in front of the hot grille cooking burger after burger after burger always with a smile on his face and a gruff-voiced tease to a waiting customer. Dare I say a cigarette ash may have found its way onto the cooking surface a time or two? Nah…
            Frank’s brother, Steve “Choopy” Kashmere, was another rink caretaker and he had a spot on the top bench at the south end of the waiting room bleachers where he’d hold court and critique the abilities, or lack thereof, of the hockey teams currently playing on the arena ice. Most of the time whatever they were doing was wrong! And Choopy was probably right.
            Most of my time at the rink was spent on the “skating” side but I had my share of wobbly pops in the curling lounge, too, over the years. I’m a terrible curler but I can bonspiel with the best of ‘em. Or could…that is.
            Safe to say some of the happiest moments in my life have happened in the Kipling Arena. So many memories. So many friendships made and moments enjoyed.
One column dedicated to 50 years of history seems inadequate so you’ll have to tune in again next week for “Kipling Arena 2-Point-Oh!” There are more stories to be told.

 “We didn’t realize that we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”-from Winnie the Pooh.

Monday, February 20, 2017

FEAR MARKETING WORKS.

             They call it “Fear Marketing” or “Shock Selling” and it’s used as a marketing tool to scare people into buying a product or service or not buy a product or service, depending on the product or service, of course.
             You know, like the advertising on cigarette packages with the emaciated patient lying in the hospital bed with hours left in their life or someone with advanced mouth cancer. Ewwww. Shocking, awful pictures but hopefully they are effective in deterring anyone from continuing to smoke or to pick up the nasty habit.
             Now, I am not being judgmental here as I’ve had my share of cancer sticks over the years but I have quit and I’m uncertain whether the pictures on the packs ever deterred me from buying another pack of smokes because I’ve known since I started smoking in the 60’s that it was not good for my health. That said, the pictures made me uncomfortable enough to avoid looking at those ugly images every time I bought another pack of smokes. But I still bought the smokes.
             The strategy can work, though. Fear mongering can even get you elected President of the United States. You tell America over and over and over again that a Muslim is going to kill them or a Mexican will take their job and they’ll believe it and they will even elect you President of the Excited States to protect you from those evil doers regardless of how irresponsible and reckless that philosophy is. Sorry about that…that’s a massive subject for a couple of thousand pages of diatribe in book form. I’ll move on.
             Those cigarette pictures are a not-so-subtle Fear Marketing tactic but the A&W ads telling us about their beef, chicken, bacon and eggs being anti-biotic, hormone and steroid free is a milder form of scare tactic. A milder form, yes, but according to A &W’s Chief Marketing Officer the “Better Beef” marketing strategy, which they have been using since 2013, has been very successful for them.
             Here’s the thing, though, according to Dr. Reynold Bergen from Canada’s Beef Cattle Research Council a 75-gram serving of beef from cattle treated with hormone implants contains two nanograms, (ng~one billionth of a gram), of estrogen. He says, “A person would need to eat 3,000,000 hamburgers made with beef from implanted cattle to get as much estrogen as the average adult woman produces every day, or 50,000 hamburgers to get as much estrogen as the average adult man produces every day. Also, considering there are about 45,000 ng of estrogen in 75 grams of white bread, the bun probably has far more estrogen than the beef!”
             This is textbook marketing, then, if the people are actually sucked into thinking that eating the non-antibiotic/hormone/steroid food stuffs is healthier for them. It’s a fast food restaurant people! HELLO! They’re not selling you health food in there. This isn’t tofu and chick peas, you know. It’s greasy old burgers and breakfast sandwiches all loaded with the healthiest of all food groups….BACON! If you were really, really concerned about putting something healthy into your bodies you wouldn’t be in the lineup at the A&W. Just sayin’.
             I guess it’s working for them, though, much to chagrin of the Canadian beef producers as most of A & W’s beef comes from somewhere other than Canada. Dr. Stuart Smyth from Saskatchewan’s SAIFood (Sustainable Agricultural Innovations & Food) calls the marketing strategy A(mbiguous) & W(rong) saying the marketing campaign misleads consumers about beef production in Canada. However, typical to today’s world, the information presented to the public does not have to be true and accurate, or anything, it just has to be effective.
“Money coming in says I’ve made the right marketing decisions.”- Adam Osborne author (1939-2003).

Monday, February 6, 2017

THERE HAVE BEEN SOME CHANGES

So it's been a few months since I dedicated any time to this blog as there have been some changes in my life since the middle of November, which, coincidently, was the last time I did some work on this page.
On the 15th of November, 2016, I was given a choice of taking a new role at Seed Hawk Incorporated, where I had been employed since September 11th, 2006, or take a severance package due to the company's "restructuring". I took the severance package as I was ready to move on to the next stage in my life anyway. It had been a good decade at Seed Hawk and I was ready for something new.
I was getting my ducks in a row for an opportunity I was going to pursue in the spring of '17 when I received a phone call out of the blue asking me if I would be interested in a project to open a new private liquor outlet in the town of Kipling. Best Cellars-House of Spirits will be opening in May of 2017 and I am going to be the General Manager of the brand new store. I'm pretty excited about that.
This shared information is only provided as an excuse for ignoring my blogpage. I have posted some of my most recent In My Humble Opinion pieces and I will pledge to be more current here. If anyone is listening or cares.

IT'S TIME TO BUILD A SKATING RINK

            Back when our three children were younger and they were just getting their skating legs under them I would build a little outdoor rink on our garden spot for them to practice on and they spent a fair amount of time out there zooming around. It seems like I did that every year for years and years but I think it was only five or six times before the kids had other things to do and/or a whole great big indoor rink to do it in.
            Now the tradition has been passed on and I’ve got to flood a rink for the Grandchildren. I haven’t built one of those little rinks in quite some time but now that the Grandkiddies are getting their skating legs under them I decided, with very strong persuasion from their Grandmother first, to build a rink in the side yard for them.
            This winter hasn’t been the best for rink building, though, even if you use the cheating method, as it was either too cold or too warm, if you can imagine. I had the opportunity to be a professional ice maker during my Parks and Recreation days but these backdoor rinks are a whole different animal. Thus the “cheat”.
            Making ice sounds like the simplest of chores, doesn’t it? We live in Canada for heaven sake. You pour water where it’s freezing cold and…voila!....ice! Well, yes and no. In an indoor rink you have a mostly flat floor with boards and a refrigeration system cooling said floor to the exact right temperature and you have a variety of hoses and boom sprayers and all kinds of stuff to make the job a little easier.
            There are a few more obstacles when you’re building a skating rink in the outdoors, the least of which is that it is…outside! The first time I did it on the garden it took hours and hours and hours of building up the ice to get a good seal on the ground and cover up all of the lumps, (I didn’t say I was a smart ice maker, did I…should have spent a bit more time leveling that ground before freeze up…duh).
            Anyway, that’s when I discovered the old rink-in-a-bag trick. Yup, rink-in-a-bag. You buy ‘em at the local hardware store and they come in a few different sizes and you kind of level the ground some and lay out the soon-to-be-rink-bag, then you stick the garden hose in the filler hole and fill the bag, which looks like a giant see-through air mattress by the time it’s full, and then you go do something fun while the water bag freezes solid. Could take hours…could take days. They weren’t that big as a rule, 10 feet by 20 feet and few inches thick, so I would just put two together to make it a bit bigger.
            I am happy to report that this year’s version of our little outdoor rink is finished. Finally. It was a real struggle at times…fighting the snow and then it was minus a-bazillion and then the stupid bag didn’t fill right creating a void bubble and damn you gotta hate those void bubbles, and then it started melting, but, you know, other than that, it went okay, I suppose. It’s done.
            The Grandchildren will get their first skate on the finished product this weekend and old Gramps is going to get his skates on, too. We’ll have a little wiener roast over the fire and drink hot chocolate and skate with the lights on. It’s going to be great!
            With all of my whining and sniveling about our nasty Canadian winters I am still a Canadian boy at heart and, as with all things, you just have to make the very best of any given situation and enjoy the simple pleasures whenever you can.
“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.- Anton Chekov (1860-1904).

WATCH OUT FOR THOSE CHIZZLERS!

            Here’s a question for you. Since when do “Boxing Day Sales” last a month? How the heck does Boxing Day start in the middle of December and last until January 15th? Hm? Perhaps someone should Wiktionary “day” for an actual definition.
            And what about all those poor souls who camped out in the snow and sleet so they could crash the doors as soon as things opened up on the morning of the 26th? Hm? I’d be a little choked if I froze my you-know-what off sitting outside a store waiting for the big Boxing Day deals only to find out that I could get the same deal on the 14th of January!
            I know, I know, it’s all marketing; it’s all about the hook, you know? It’s the lure of the advertising. “Boxing Day Sale” says cheap, cheap, cheap even when it isn’t. The same people are probably in charge of the “Back to School” sales in the middle of July, too. Then again, you know what, it must be working or it wouldn’t be happening. You know what ol’ P.T. Barnum said, don’t you? “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
            It’s all salesmanship, folks. I’m sure it’s been going on since the first cavemen were trying to sell or trade off their old clubs and fur clothing and such.
           “No, no Grog…it’s a great club!! All the blood n guts and such on it just means it WORKS! That’s all. The smell goes away after a while anyway. That guy over there’s shiny new club hasn’t killed anything!! You gotta buy mine.” And so it began.
            We’ve all run into that sales guy once or twice over the years, haven’t we? Whether they were selling cars or advertising or brushes door to door there has always been someone willing to schmooze the money right out of your wallet. And they are so good at it that you know that they know that you know what they’re doing and you still let them do it anyway!! My good ol buddy, Smoothy, calls these guys “chizzlers”. And there’s one of those born every minute, too. Or so it seems.
             In fact, there’s one who is going to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States this Friday the 20th of January. You have to hand it to him, though, that has to rank as one of the world’s top-five all-time best chizzles, if that’s what you’d say chizzlers do. What a bill of goods he sold, eh? They will be analyzing that campaign in every marketing and promotions class for the rest of eternity!
            How did he do it? How did he insult, slander, slam and alienate so many people along the way to one of the biggest upset political victories in the history of political victories? I do not like the man, nor his politics, but even I grudgingly admit that his election result was admirable. In a way. He sold it! And they bought it! And may I add…Lord help us.
            I hope the planet survives long enough to prove me wrong. I really do. I hope he nails it! I hope it turns out great! I hope he’s an awesome President. And I really, really, really hope it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors and I sure as hell hope we haven’t all been chizzled.

“Nobody is gonna love you like you. You're gonna be your best salesman.” American musician T.I. (1980-).